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All posts tagged "software"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Microsoft Updates Windows 7 RC Feature List

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"This blog post talks about a few of the improvements that will be in our Release Candidate (RC) based upon customer feedback. There are many under the hood changes (bug fixes, compatibility fixes, performance improvements, and improvements) across the entire dev team that we just don’t have room to discuss here, but we thought you’d enjoy a taste of some changes made by three of our feature teams: Core User Experience, Find & Organize and Devices & Media. The comments in this article come from a variety of verbatim sources, with identifying information withheld. "

Microsoft has been kind enough to provide a list of some of the changes they've made to Windows 7 since the release of their Beta. A large part of the changes are driven by user feedback with a particular focus on improving the interface and accessing different parts of Windows 7. None of the changes are radical but combine together to make using Windows 7 easier and more consistent. I particularly like the adjustments made to the Windows + # shortcut and the addition of Aero Peek to Alt-Tab. Being a keyboard junkie, its changes like this which will help make using Windows 7 a pleasure since it extends all those Windows conventions that I've been using for over a decade now. Anyone see any changes that peak their interest?

SixRevisions Highlights Ten Photo Editors

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"Adobe Photoshop is a given in any designer’s wish list, and it comes with a host of features that allow for excellent and professional photo editing. The biggest obstacle to any designer who wants Photoshop is the price, which can be prohibitive. Fortunately there are a number of open source (and completely free) programs out there that do much of what Photoshop can, and sometimes more."

So you're just getting your feet wet with tweaking photos and you're finding that the handy online photo editors aren't cutting it and you're not quite ready to invest in the more expensive programs. Fortunately, there are a a wide variety of free programs you can use, and SixRevisions has rounded up 10 editors that won't cost you a dime. While the list contains many worthy contenders you should consider, I would not of included Photoshop Express owing to its online nature. The wonderful Picasa is also notably absent. Still, it's a good list and I'd suggest you try at least two or three of these programs to find the one that fits you. It won't cost you anything, and like any collection of programs, each have their own benefits. Anyone use a free photo editor that isn't on the list?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Win a Copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (PRODUCT) RED

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 05:05 PM

Thanks to some generous folks at Microsoft, I have a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (PRODUCT) RED Edition to give away (valued at $219 USD). Oh yeah, and that little wireless mouse too. The contest is open to anyone in the world, and all you have to do to enter is post a response in our forums telling me what you'd do with this software. Would you install it on your current computer, currently running Windows XP or a lower version of Vista? Would you donate the software to charity? Would you build a new computer and use this OS? Or give the OS away to someone who doesn't yet have Vista? There are no right or wrong answers, I'm just curious to know what you'd do.

The contest is open until Thursday the 5th of March, 2009, at 3pm GMT -7. One entry per person. I'll randomly select one winner and they'll have 72 hours to respond and claim their prize.

UPDATE: The contest is over and the winner is cmchavez. Thanks to everyone for entering the contest!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What Are Your Essential Apps?

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 02:00 AM

"We've put together a list of what we think are the most essential PC apps for every Maximum PC reader. These are all free programs (except one) that should be immediately installed after a fresh build or reformat; 32 indispensable programs and utilities that we couldn't imagine computing without. From the best IM client to FTP browser and Notepad replacement, these essentials truly enhance the Windows experience (much more so than Microsoft's own Windows LIVE Essentials). We're not saying you'd use all 32 entries in our list on a daily basis, but if you are at all serious about utilizing your PC, we promise our picks will not go unused."

Pretty good listing. I've got my own list of essentials which have a few in common with their list. When I set up a new PC, I install the following: AVG anti-virus, Spybot, Zone Alarm Free, OpenOffice, Firefox, Irfanview, and Miro. What is your list of essentials?

Tags: software

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Windows 7 Mobile Broadband Receives Big Industry Support

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 08:48 PM

"Windows 7's Mobile Broadband enhancements give people a more reliable way to connect to the Internet using a wireless modem. Taking advantage of this feature is just like connecting to any other wireless network, and is done using the View Available Networks feature. A consistent experience for customers on top of a common infrastructure for partners to build off of enables several benefits including lower support, maintenance, deployment and management costs."

If you've ever had to fight with a dysfunctional WiFi connection tool, usually in the form of "bonus" software that comes with your laptop, you'll appreciate the fact that Microsoft is going to integrate wide-area network connectivity right into Windows 7. Announced partners include Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Sierra Wireless, T-Mobile, Fujitsu-Siemens, and more - so, basically, the biggest players in the industry. Sounds good - but only if the service providers in my area grab a sanity check and stop charging $60+ per month for the service. I already pay $50/month for Internet access at home and $30/month to get data on my phone - I refuse to tack another $60 onto that, at least as long as I can tether my Windows Mobile smartphone to my laptop and get Internet access everywhere.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stardock Lets You Fence In Your Icons

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"Stardock's Fences exactly addresses this issue. It allows you to organize your desktop icons and create fences. Visualize fences as blocks of icons (shaded areas) grouped together. Now it becomes very easy to organize my icons using Fences according to the categories I had arranged earlier!"

Neowin has put up a quick review of the community preview of Stardock's Fences which is available free directly from the Stardock website. Fences is for all you people out there, you know who you are, whose desktops are all a flutter with icons. Instead of your desktop being one big open free for all, Fences corrals all your pictures, documents, shortcuts and who knows what else into neat little groups. The concept is simple, but Stardock looks to have made handling fences really easy. I'll admit that I keep my desktop very spartan so Fences may not be for me, but it grinds my gears when I see friends whose desktops look like a troop of 2 year olds have gone through it. Now I have at least one program I can suggest to them to clean their act up.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Windows 7 SKUs Announced: Yeah, There's Six Of Them

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 03:34 PM

"We've received great feedback from customers and partners through Windows XP and Windows Vista, and have learned a lot about how to communicate what's available in different editions of the operating system. At the same time, we have a customer base of over 1 billion along with many partners, so it's important to make sure the right edition of Windows with the right features set is available for them. The first change in Windows 7 was to make sure that editions of Windows 7 are a superset of one another. That is to say, as customers upgrade from one version to the next, they keep all features and functionality from the previous edition. As an example, some business customers using Windows Vista Business wanted the Media Center functionality that is in Windows Vista Home Premium but didn't receive it in Business edition. Customers won't have to face that trade-off with Windows 7. With Windows 7 there is a more natural progression from one edition to the next."

Well, it's official: Windows 7 will have six different versions. My initial reaction is to groan, but upon reading the full Q&A, the reality is a bit better than I thought (though not by much). If this plays out the way Windows General Manager Mike Ybarra says it will, you should only see three version of Windows 7 when you're shopping for a new computer, either online or in a store: Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional Business, and Windows 7 Ultimate. The other versions, which are Enterprise, Basic, and Starter, will be available only through specific channels - Starter only in emerging markets, Basic only from OEMs and for specific hardware, and Enterprise only for IT groups (your typical big-business types). Read more...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to Create a Deep Zoom Photo Album

Posted by John Lane in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 09:30 AM[p...MC-R3A917316679

"Deep Zoom, an Ajax-powered online viewer that lets you view, zoom, and pan through high-resolution photos and images in a way that is incredibly fast and smooth, regardless of the original image's pixel density. Companies adopting this tech include the Hard Rock Café, which utilizes it in its music memorabilia showcase."

Deep Zoom Composer is Microsoft software that lets you build a collage of your photos to post on your website. Its unique function is that builds an image that you can zoom in and out and move around very easily. The link will take you to a step-by-step guide that walks you through building your own and it is very easy to use. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Windows 7 Play To Showcased

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 AM

"Windows 7 Senior Program Manager, Gabe Frost, demonstrates Windows 7 “Play To” functionality to the crew of For those unfamiliar, Play To is a new function introduced into Windows 7 that allows one to send a media file (from the same PC, shared media library derived from networked PCs, or a dedicated home server / NAS) for playback or display to a DLNA / UPnP device like a music streamer, digital media adapter, or photo frame with a simple right-click of the mouse."

One of the new features that Windows 7 brings is the "Play To" option. It is one thing to read about it, but Gabe Frost of Microsoft demonstrates this feature in a video at Towards the end of the video, he says that Windows 7 can become a "Universal remote control for your media" which I think best describes "Play To." I'm very looking forward to this, as I've worked to come up with a wide variety of hacks such as using FM Transmitters, Shoutcast and Videolan to stream audio and video across my house and this seems to bring it all together in a much easier to use interface. I'm glad that they're going with a standard like DLNA, however, to make full use of this means upgrading/replacing a large amount of hardware I have around the house. Then again, new toys are always welcome!

Monday, January 26, 2009

High Dynamic Range Photos with Dynamic Photo HDR

Posted by John Lane in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 PM

"Our eyes are very adaptive and they are also more sensitive to intensity than color. It is estimated that our eye can see over a dynamic range of nearly 24 f-stops while a digital camera can capture a dynamic range around 6 to 9 f-stops. The High Dynamic Range Imaging is a set of techniques that has been developed nearly 20 years ago to overcome the limitations of electronic devices by combining multiple exposures into one great looking image. Using HDR technique we can combine the different exposures to create a single image that shows details in both sky and the land. A HDR photography can be created by taking few photos with different exposure, then combining them in the software into a high dynamic file."

High Dynamic Range Photos can be really great in that they bring out the best of both bright areas and dark, shadowy areas and can really make images pop. The only drawback is overdoing it - if you do, your photos would like plastic and Disney-esque. I have used a competitor's HDR demo (Photomatix) to enhance a landscape photo I took near downtown Dallas and I can tell you HDR does make a difference. This software has many controls to get the best out of your photos. And, it has won several awards, including of Pop Photo's 2008 Outstanding Product Awards. Check it out!

Sharpcast Launches SugarSync 1.5, Shared Folders Added

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"Today, I'm very happy to unveil SugarSync 1.5, now with the much-anticipated Shared Folders feature designed to enable super easy sharing and collaboration with friends, family and colleagues. You've been asking for it, and we heard you loud and clear. In the past, you had the ability to send files of any size and also to share folders containing photos as Web Albums. However, you wanted to work collaboratively with team members on projects or and share entire folders. Now, you can."

I've always thought that SugarSync was a cool concept, but two things have stopped me from using it: first, the price is too high. I'm paying less than $5/month to Mozy [Affiliate] to back up just under 200 GB of data. Mozy doesn't have any remote data access or any of the other cool things that SugarSync does, so I'd be willing to pay more for that. Maybe $10/month...but not $25/month. If SugarSync wants to compete with the online backup services, they'll need to be more competitive.

Secondly, I wouldn't need all that storage if SugarSync allowed me to specify what I stored on their servers. If it functioned like Live Sync, allowing me to keep folders in sync, but putting some of that data up in the cloud (say, photos), that's something I'd be willing to pay for. I'd still keep my Mozy account for backup, but I'd be interested in a $5/month account from SugarSync to give me what Mozy does not.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Engadget Thoroughly Reviews Windows 7 Beta

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 09:00 AM

"We've covered a few tidbits of what the Windows 7 Beta has to offer, including the mess of machines we've installed it on, but we finally gathered together all our thoughts and impressions of the OS into one meaty pile of words and screencaps. Naturally, we're working with a beta here, so things can absolutely get better (or worse), and Redmond might be hiding a feature or two in the wings -- or for the inevitable SP1 -- but we'd say Microsoft has really put its best foot forward here. Check out all our ramblings after the break."

More reviews of Windows 7 Beta are coming in, but Engadget has taken the time to publish a detailed review, going over each major component of note. They certainly like what they see, and applaud many of the improvements made, but they also take time to criticize many, many parts of Windows 7. In the end, they see the upcoming OS as an evolutionary step in the right direction for Microsoft. I really like how they've broken Windows 7 into different parts, explaining what we can expect with pictures. They thoroughly walk through each step, from the Superbar, to how the display control panel's been updated to benefit mobile workers, to its home networking abilities. I particularly like the part showing the "Play to device" feature. I also feel that the reviewer, while trying to be fair, has not been impressed with Microsoft in the past, so comments are harsh. I find this a good thing, since many reviews out there seem to be a bit blinded by some parts of Windows, gushing over every tweak. This review brings Windows 7 back to Earth and looks at it from a more practical perspective. Definitely a worthwhile read for those looking to upgrade once Widows 7 comes out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Take Your Programs And Data With You

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 04:00 PM

" Suite™ is a complete collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, audio player, sudoku game, password manager, PDF reader, minesweeper clone, backup utility and integrated menu, all preconfigured to work portably. Just drop it on your portable device and you're ready to go."

For those of you who aren't quite ready to live in the cloud, the next best option is to bring all your applications and data with you. Portable programs differ from regular programs in that you do not have to install them; they run right out of the box. There are several benefits to this, such as being able to run your programs from any computer and also not leaving any stuff behind on a computer you just used. You can download and use each program individually, or use their "Launcher" which organizes everything for you, so that all your portable programs are available as a system tray menu.

Having used them in the past, I find the Launcher really handy, and customizing it with showing only the programs I use was easy peasy. The biggest limitation I found, aside from it being Windows only, was not the programs themselves, since they work as expected, but the USB Key I used. I found with some of the slower USB drives it would take ages to start. Investment in a high performance USB drives is a must if you want to go portable. I also would like to see a hot-key be able to bring up the Launcher. Still, I do have one USB drive with a full suite of PortableApps handy with me at all time. Anyone else go the portable route?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Windows 7 Is All About Usability

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends. The first iteration of Microsoft’s next operating system has arrived, and things are looking up for the Windows faithful. In fact, the first beta of Windows 7 is so reliable and responsive that it reminds us of the early Windows XP betas. With less than 12 months to go before launch, Windows 7 is in much better shape than Vista was at the same time, and it feels like a much more usable operating system than even XP did during its beta phase."

The Windows 7 beta has been out for over a week now and MaximumPC has been putting it through its paces. Under the hood, Windows 7 draws a lot from Vista, however, the interface has changed drastically. The taskbar, networking, media playback and even how you interact with windows have been updated. Many of the changes look nice and make sense, such as the taskbar morphing into a task manager/quicklaunch/recent documents controller. However the only downside I see is after having spent 10+ years getting used to the Windows 95 interface legacy, I'm going to be real stubborn about learning a new interface, despite how beneficial it might be. I applaud change, especially ones that help, but I know more than one person who has kept with Office 2003 because they loathe Office 2007's ribbon interface. I strongly suspect that that will be Microsoft's greatest challenge, convincing people that they need to move past Windows XP. Anyone else with me, or should I pull up my pants and tell everyone to get off my lawn?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Windows Media Player 12 Beta Maiming MP3 Files

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 02:24 PM

"Several reports from users testing the latest leaked build of Windows 7 indicate a potential data corruption issue using Microsoft's Windows Media Player 12. Windows 7 beta 1 build 7000 leaked over the Christmas holidays and a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that there is a bug which affects the leaked build. Approximately 2-3 seconds will get shaved off the beginning of MP3s if you have set your Windows Media Player 12 settings to retrieve information from the internet and update files. The default configuration for WMP12 sets this if you use the "express" option during setup."

I've beta tested a lot of software over the years, including Windows operating systems, and I'd never have hesitated to use it to play back my media. Sure, you don't use the beta OS for mission-critical stuff, but I'd certainly test out the media player...but now I'm sure going to be cautious about Windows 7 until they fix this bug! Apparently the problem is triggered if the header is more than 16 KB in size on the MP3...and since I embed high-res album art in all my MP3s, the headers are definitely bigger than 16 KB. As always, when testing beta software, assume that things are going to go wrong.

Friday, January 2, 2009

No More Polaroid Film Being Made, So Check Out Poladroid

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 08:00 AM

On December 31st, 2008, Polaroid stopped making film for their instant cameras. It's the end of an era, and while I hold no particular fondness for Polaroid images my self, I can understand why some people feel particularly attached to it. Photojojo (an awesome email newsletter by the way!) had a write up about this historic date a couple of weeks ago, but what I really wanted to share was Poladroid (pictured below).

Poladroid is free software, currently in beta for both Macs and PCs, and it does one thing: it turns your photos into Polaroid-eque images. Check it out and tell me what you think!

Time To Run Screaming From Carbonite: They Won't Back Up Your Videos

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 06:00 AM

"When I started my Carbonite subscription nearly two years ago, at least one FAQ on Carbonite's website said that free-trial users would not get automatic back-ups of video files but that paid subscribers would get automatic back-ups of video files. This wording persisted all the way through my extending my Carbonite subscription on December 28, 2008, for another two years beyond the end of the expiring subscription. After I paid Carbonite another $89.95 for the subscription renewal, I discovered to my shock that MANY of my hundreds of video files had NOT been backed up, including video files dating back to 1999!"

I wrote an article back in August 2008 where I talked about why I switched from Carbonite to Mozy [Affiliate] for online backup purposes. My main reason for leaving Carbonite was that their service would not back up my EXE files and ISO files. Read my article for more details. What shocked me today was reading the blog post I quoted above where Kirk Mahoney confirms that Carbonite will not back up any video files unless, I think, those video files are in a folder with nothing else and you tell Carbonite to back up my folder. My read on this is that if you have video files mixed in with your photos - which most people would do, vacation photos and videos - Carbonite will back up the photos but ignore the videos.

This is, in a word, appalling. It was bad enough that Carbonite didn't consider my EXE files worthy of backing up, but for them to treat user video the same way is completely ridiculous. Most people will have more photos than video, but with HD video cameras getting less and less expensive, we're going to see a boom in HD content creation. If Carbonite doesn't want to back up video files, that's fine - but I'll be slowly moving every friend and relative off Carbonite and onto Mozy as the subscription expires. I've kept everyone on Carbonite because it has a more user-friendly software user interface, but I'm sure that they all care more about having all their files backed up than they do about having easy to use software - once I configure the backups for them, it's not like they have to do anything.

Carbonite as a company should be ashamed of themselves for not treating all user data, videos included, as being equally important.

Monday, December 29, 2008

SlySoft Moving AnyDVD Away From Free Lifetime Upgrades Starting January 1st, 2009

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 11:30 AM

If you've ever needed to rip a commercial DVD, whether for transcoding to a portable device or for extracting scenes, there's nothing on the market that makes it easier to do than AnyDVD from Slysoft [Affiliate]. I'm a cheerleader for this product because it works so incredibly well - in fact, it works invisibly, requiring no steps of any sort to use beyond installing. My review of AnyDVD is found here, but the important part is that nothing truly great lasts forever: and that includes the lifetime upgrades from Slysoft. Buying a program once and having it be updated week after week, year after year, is practically unheard of - even WinZip stopped doing that a couple of years ago. Slysoft has offered free lifetime upgrades for years on AnyDVD, but starting on January 1st, all versions of AnyDVD sold will have a yearly subscription fee. It makes sense when you think about it, because the guys at Slysoft are constantly updating the program to defeat new copyright protection schemes, and without subscription income who knows how long that could last.

So here's the deal: right now Slysoft is offering 20% discounts on all their products, taking AnyDVD from 49 Euros down to 38.62 Euros (about $56 USD). If you purchase the software before before January 1st, you'll get the free lifetime upgrades. If you want to add on the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD decryption option, again offered with the lifetime upgrades, it's another $34 USD or so. Yes, that makes for a somewhat expensive bundle, but I can't reccomend this product highly enough - it truly works wonders in a way that nothing else on the market can.

Dealing With The New Windows Live Sync Quirks

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 07:00 AM

FolderShare has gone away, and it's been replaced by Windows Live Sync. For the most part, this has been a marked improvement. The product is finally out of beta, and performance is good - I'm seeing my files and folders kick off a sync faster, and complete faster, than with FolderShare. And because most users were stuck at the 10,000 files per library level, the new limit of 20,000 files per library allows them to do much more with Windows Live Sync than they could ever do before.

However...Windows Live Sync is causing me some significant frustrations. The first frustration, and by far the worst of the two, is the fact that I'm capped at 20,000 files per library. Way back when FolderShare was owned by ByteTaxi, I was happily paying $60 USD per year for a professional level account - and that account allowed for 20,000 files per library, and perhaps a bit more, because up until just recently I was able to keep my Pictures folder in sync across all my computers - and that folder has about 22,000 photos in it. Suddenly that became a big problem. Read more...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ProShow Gold 4.0 Released

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 05:30 PM

"Simply drag and drop your photos and videos onto the Slide List to add them to your show. Each slide can have an unlimited number of layers meaning you can create unique photo montages, add borders to images and more. You can even edit your video clips directly in ProShow Gold by using the built-in video trimmer. Use a transition to fade into the next slide for a seamless effect...Add a custom motion effect to any photo or video in your slideshow. Zoom into a point of interest, pan across a panoramic image or rotate any photo. A little bit of motion can add a lot of interest to your slide show. Think about how you see images when watching TV; they are rarely static and still on the screen. Add simple pans, zooms or rotations for the best overall effect."

If making photo slideshows are your thing, ProShow Gold is a great application - I haven't tried 4.0 yet, but I have some experience with 3.5 and the results were impressive. There are two different versions of ProShow: Gold, which is $69.95 USD, and Producer, which costs a much more serious $249.95 USD.

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